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The experimental method of Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) in the study of plant reproduction and its implications for Biology Teaching

Grant number: 13/19851-0
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): February 01, 2014
Effective date (End): September 02, 2014
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - History of Science
Principal researcher:Maria Elice de Brzezinski Prestes
Grantee:Maria Elice de Brzezinski Prestes
Host: Sander Gliboff
Home Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Indiana University, United States  

Abstract

This research will develop an analysis of the contributions of Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) for the study of generation of plants. The research aims to provide new evidence of the consolidation of the experimental method developed by that Italian naturalist to investigate the vital functions of animals and plants. It will highlight the characteristic features of the experimental procedures of his research on plant breeding, comparing them to those adopted in the studies about generation of microorganisms and amphibians. Besides the methodological aspects, it will be discussed the epistemic matrix with which Spallanzani guided his studies, that is, the perspective of drawing analogies that allowed unify these two "large groups of organized beings" (Spallanzani, 1780, p. 309). With views to the scientific context of his work, other relevant publications of the period will be considered, as well as Spallanzani's records of experiments and correspondence. It will be also discussed an approach for the inclusion of this historical episode in biology teaching and the question of demarcation of science, understood by its "family resemblance" to other areas of knowledge that have been already recognized as science (Süchting, 1995, Hacking 1996). Science teaching will be taken as interaction between distinct subcultures, derived from the conception of scientific activity as a "community of practice" (Hodson, 2009). The detailed history of the episode will cover the way in which occurred the development, acquisition and sharing of knowledge and skills specific to the experimental method, the lexicon and procedures developed, as well as the underlying theoretical concepts, beliefs, aspirations, values and expectations shared by Spallanzani and his contemporaries. (AU)

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